On Wednesday, the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia held a hearing about H.R. 960, the District of Columbia Legislative Autonomy Act of 2009 and H.R. 1045, the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2009. Both bills were introduced by congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
“Even in light of some of the city’s ongoing policy challenges and its long-standing structural budget imbalance, the District of Columbia has made great strides over the past decade in its capacity to govern – which is why I believe today’s discussion on revisiting Congress’s approach to overseeing the legislative and budgetary matters of the nation’s capital is warranted,” Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said at the congressional hearing.
In 1973, Congress granted the District limited home rule powers and empowered the citizens of the District to elect a mayor and city council. At the same time, however, Congress retained the power to review and approve all District laws including the District’s annual budget.
According to Mayor Adrian Fenty, the change in legislation would give D.C. limited legislative autonomy.
“The limited legislative autonomy granted by the bill proposed by [Norton] would maximize the use of taxpayer dollars, reduce inefficiencies caused by a complicated legislative process required to comply with federal law, and allow the District to realize a greater measure of self-government,” Fenty said at the hearing.
Among the citizens of D.C., the issue of autonomy and voting rights are critical, and the passing of this bill would help expand the level of self-government in the District.
“These two bills, along with the D.C. Voting Rights Act . represent a critical step [toward] the advancement of democracy and self-government for the residents of the nation’s capital,” said Walter Smith, executive director of the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, in his testimony at the hearing.”